Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Complete My Joy -- with Humility: Phil 2.1-3

In this passage, already we’ve seen Paul gives an earnest plea for Christian unity. He’s asking us to acknowledge the unity that Christ has created. God has made us to be one in Jesus Christ. As we rest and trust in Him and are united to Him, he is saying to us: “maintain that unity.” Don’t do things to disrupt that unity, and on the contrary, do things to foster that spiritual unity.

As he has called our attention to this unity in verse 2, he also said there will be no shared experience of gospel unity in the local church apart from humility. Humility is the key to that unity.

John Stott said, “In every aspect of the Christian life, pride is our greatest foe and humility our greatest ally.”

No matter what we are doing, pride is always an enemy to us, and humility is always an ally for us. That alone reminds us of how important it is to cultivate humility, but here Paul gives two motivations to our humility.

First, “Count others more significant than yourselves.” As he urges us to humility, he refuses to leave humility as some sort of an abstract idea in your mind. He gives you something concrete.

Then, in verses 5-11, he says, ‘Consider Christ.’ Let me show you your Savior, who spoke the world into being, to whom all the peoples of the world owe the obedience of Lordship, because He is their maker, who humbled Himself, dying at the hands of those He came to save, that they might share with Him the glorious presence and communion with the living God forever and ever.’ He says, ‘Behold humility.’

Pride is a master sin and all of us struggle with it, pride gets us a thousand ways. Pride attacks one through conceit, the other through rivalry or through envy, or through jealousy.

How do you cultivate humility? How do you fight against pride?

One, reflect on the wonder of the cross. Gospel humility only comes at the foot of the cross. If you’re not amazed by that wonder, amazed by the wonder of His love, amazed by the wonder of His grace, you will not be able to combat pride in your life. Staying by the cross is the greatest weapon that the Christian has against pride.

Second, use the means of grace. If you want to slay pride and grow in humility, use the means of grace. Recognize that God’s word, the sacraments, and prayers are altogether designed to kill pride. When we come and we hear God’s word read, we’re being reminded, ‘Oh, yeah…I’m supposed to live life according to the way that God said, not the way I want to do it.”

When you come to the church on the Lord’s Day to worship God, remember that one of the things that will be happening is you are drinking in the means of grace: word and sacrament and prayer. Pride will be being slain, and you will be being reinforced for the fight against pride all week long.

Third, study God. Jim Packer taught us many years ago that the secret to soul-satisfying Bible study is not asking first the question, ‘What does this passage mean for me in my daily life?’ but asking first the question, ‘What does this passage teach me about my God?’ because that puts everything else in perspective. The Bible is fundamentally about God, and when I study God, I don’t look so great.

Fourth, study grace. How can you be prideful if you believe in grace? Grace says you’re a sinner, you need help.

Fifth, study sin. Especially your own sin. Not the sins of others. Study sin. In the end this is not depressing, but leads to joy, humility, and delight in God’s grace. But it hurts along the way.

Sixth, identify graces in others. Do you celebrate humility when you see it in others? Do you look around you and see examples of humility and service and rejoice in them? And then say, ‘Lord, I want to be like that. I want to be like people like that.’

Seventh, encourage and serve others daily. Not only identify graces in others, but encourage and serve others every day.

Eighth, (this is really hard) invite and pursue and welcome correction. I hate to repent. C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is actually quite a cheerful thing, once you get past the initial shock.” And that is exactly how I feel about repentance. It is hard, because in repentance I have to see what I really am, and I don’t like to see that. I like to think of myself as a nicer person than that.

Lastly, every day, deliberately acknowledge your dependence on and need for God. Acknowledge when you get up in the morning that you need God for every step that you’re going to take; that any success that you’re going to have during the day, comes from Him and is because of Him, and is not because of your own innate ability.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Most of our unhappiness in life is because we listen to ourselves, rather than talk to ourselves.” He means that we sit around and we grumble and we murmur. We listen to ourselves grumble and murmur instead of saying, “Self, God will take care of you. Self, cast your cares upon the Lord, and He will care for you. Self, God is in control.” Instead of preaching to ourselves, we listen to ourselves. Do you get up in the morning and preach to yourself, “Today I am going to believe in the sovereign care of God”? And, having announced that, can you be proud about that? Not unless you’re deluded.

We need every weapon we can find against pride, because the joy and unity that God intends us to experience is inseparably connected to humility. And our witness to the world is inseparably connected to our humility.

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